“What was it?” He was insistent.
“You repeated the word ‘Fool’ over and over.”
“No. Now, no more questions, or I shall be forced to leave the room.”
“I promise to ask no more.”
“Would you like to have me read to you?”
He did not answer. So she took up Stevenson and began to read aloud. She read beautifully because the fixed form of the poem signified nothing. She went from period to period exactly as she would have read prose; so that sense and music were equally balanced. She read for half an hour, then closed the book because Spurlock appeared to have fallen asleep. But he was wide awake.
“What poet was that?”
“Stevenson.” Ruth had read from page to page in “The Child’s Garden of Verse,” generally unfamiliar to the admirers of Stevenson. Of course Ruth was not aware that in this same volume there were lyrics known the world over.
Immediately Spurlock began to chant one of these.
“’Under the wide and starry
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.’”
“’This be the verse you grave
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea.
And the hunter home from the hill.’”
“What is that?” she asked. Something in his tone pinched her heart. “Did you write it?”
“No. You will find it somewhere in that book. Ah, if I had written that!”
“Don’t you want to live?”
“I don’t know; I really don’t know.”
“But you are young!” It was a protest, almost vehement. She remembered the doctor’s warning that the real battle would begin when the patient recovered consciousness. “You have all the world before you.”
“Rather behind me;” and he spoke no more that morning.
Throughout the afternoon, while the doctor was giving her the first lesson out of his profound knowledge of life, her interest would break away continually, despite her honest efforts to pin it down to the facts so patiently elucidated for her. Recurrently she heard: “I don’t know; I really don’t know.” It was curiously like the intermittent murmur of the surf, those weird Sundays, when her father paused for breath to launch additional damnation for those who disobeyed the Word. “I don’t know; I really don’t know.”
Her ear caught much of the lesson, and many things she stored away; but often what she heard was sound without sense. Still, her face never betrayed this distraction. And what was singular she did not recount to the doctor that morning’s adventure. Why? If she had put the query to herself, she could not have answered it. It was in no sense confessional; it was a state of mind in the patient the doctor had already anticipated. Yet she held her tongue.